Tuesday, May 10, 2011

K12Online and South Carolina Virtual Charter School Leave Children with Special Needs Behind

By Gretchen Herrera, parent of a child being left behind

All I have ever wanted for my child was an education he could obtain while ensuring his safety and physical and emotional well-being. It is clear though that the No Child Left Behind legislation views children as little more than testing objects to report out on and from which to receive dollars for, making the dream I had for my child impossible. 

I have been working for years to advocate for the needs of my son. Recently when I requested to opt-out of our state’s standardized test, I was met with not only resistance, but threats. Threats that my son would be removed from South Carolina Virtual Charter school powered by K12 Online and returned to the hostile environment he escaped from should we not comply. 

My son is a type 1 diabetic as well as child with Aspergers. His medical team leader wrote this letter to the school requesting he not be tested. She explained it could have significant ramifications for his blood sugar, and how that would be detrimental to his health. She asked he be allowed to be excused from testing. Her words fell on deaf ears. I was told by the  South Carolina Virtual Charter school’s Office of Exceptional Children that the medical note wasn’t acceptable.  She stated,
“After research and contact with the State Department of Education it is my understanding that no student is excluded from state testing due to the No Child Left Behind legislation.“
When I pointed out that this was a medical reason, I was told that the doctors orders would be disregarded and instead he would be accommodated (see video here for what that could mean), not excused, from the tests.

Deeply concerned about my son’s well-being, I reached out in writing twice to the director of South Carolina Virtual Charter school who ignored my outreach.  I also called and spoke with  the counsel for the South Carolina Department of Education and was told, begrudgingly, there isn’t a state law that says my son has to test. However, I received threats from the Department.  She said if I didn’t produce my son on the day of testing and he didn’t participate, he would suffer consequences. His absences could trigger truancy through my “unlawful actions”...even though there was no law against me following his doctors orders and my instinct about what was best for my child. She explained I could NOT “opt-out” for pieces of a child’s education and how every district can instill their own penalties. Of course, I was not opting out of the education.  I was opting out of the assessments which my son, my doctors, and my instincts tell me are wrong for my child.  I was told the penalty for my doing what was best for my child was that I would no longer be allowed to have my child attend the only school he was ever safe in. She also informed me that if I didn’t make my child available for their testing, there would be a compulsory attendance issue and that I could then be held liable and may face charges...even though I assured them he would be engaging in real learning activities in alignment with his passions, talents, and interests.  

Why must I be forced to do what my doctors, my son, and I know will harm him? I want my son to have access to the joyful, useful, relevant, real, and interesting learning experience that our tax dollars pay for?  I’d happily take my tax dollars elsewhere, but unfortunately, our compulsory system of compliance doesn’t afford parents such options. I am forced to subject my son to that which will make him physically and emotionally ill if he is to get the education he he deserves. The system has failed and my child is being left behind.


  1. South Carolina Virtual Charter School is a public school. As a result, they are held to the same standards as other public schools, one of which is State testing.

    Virtual education is not a good fit for every student, however there are many families that truly enjoy it. I regret that you had such a poor experience, but any parent looking into this option should be aware of the requirements associated with the program.

    1. I am sorry for the frustrations and threats which have been forced on you due to this situation. However, what you are going through is NOT due to regulations or anything from K12 Inc...they are a contractor with a public school district that provides the rules of attendance, testing, and so forth.

      This rests solely on the administrators at SCVCS and the Dept of Education for violating a ton of laws as well as your right to test or not. It was stated below that there is no law FORCING to have your child tested but you were threatened. They stated they would ignore the doctors letter. That is in clear violation of ADA, IDEA and Civil Rights. I would find a lawyer and sue the State of South Carolina, the SCVCS hosting district and so forth: BUT, K12 does NOT control the requirements of each individual VA or CS.

      I find this article puzzling and wondering why the Innovative Educator is so clearly biased if they claim to be a reporter of the truth (that is what a true journalist is about, right...reporting both sides and ensuring objectiveness)...CLEARLY this is simply to bash K12 and not the true culprits: Brick & Mortar Administrators, State Dept of Education personnel and the PUBLIC SCHOOL policy of South Carolina.

  2. Keep advocating for your child and never give up! My 3rd grade son attends public school at Belle Hall Elementary in Charleston County, SC, and we faced a very similar fight with the school district over PASS testing. I did have to file a complaint with the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, but I am happy to report that my son is attending school this week, but is not required to take the PASS test.
    We also were enrolled with SCVCS for more than two years, but decided to withdraw due to the school administration's inability to provide a free and appropriate education to my children. I would question the legality of the school's policy of not allowing students to return if they don't take PASS. There is not a law that actually requires students to take the test, and my son is proof that a district can exclude students.

  3. @Anonymous, parents have the right to opt out of testing whether the school is virtual or not. Online learning is a good option for Gretchen's child. Forcing him to take a test that makes him sick is not. You should get more information before responding and I think it is shameful that anyone would support schools that are forcing children to do something that makes them ill.

  4. @Sarah Johnson,
    Thank you for your inspirational words. Can you share how to file a complaint with the US Dept of Ed Office of Civil Rights. I think any information parents can share about how they are able to succeed in this endeavor would be helpful.

  5. @Anonymous: Glad to see the recognition that charter schools are public schools. Last time I looked, we were still living in a democracy, where the concerns of the public and rights of the parents mattered. Across the country, parents are tired of being ignored and are raising their voices against the test-obsession entrenched in public schools. Parents have the responsibility for the health and well-being of their children. You'd think the DOE would have the same concern. Whose needs are being met by this forced testing when medical concerns are presented?

  6. I agree. I think impacting legislation is the most effective way to fight for children and to free public schools to alter policies so they don't feel so bound. Interesting discussion.

  7. Hi

    I have reached out to Gretchen to find out specific information about the situation so that we are able to understand what exactly is going on and and see how it can be handled.

    All of us at K12 and our partner schools are committed to our families and children and will do whatever we can to ensure that online education works for everyone.

    steph h

  8. @Steh H, I am beyond thrilled to hear that K12 is taking responsibility for working with this parent and any others who are being bullied and met with threats of being kicked out when they are looking after the health and well-being of their children. You should know that until we brought more attention to this issue, this parent was told it was not K12's problem. I applaud you for acknowledging that all students are of concern and also that it is imperitive that K12 ensure the schools servicing children with your content are doing so ethically.

    I invite K12 to contribute a post publicly stating their stand when it comes to supporting parents who believe opting out is in the best interest of their child's emotional, physical, and /or intellectual well being. I believe it is of crucial importance that providers such as K12 take a stand on issues like this. Many parents, like Gretchen, are distraught as they are told by the schools that they, better conform, even if it means making their child ill, or they'll be kicked out. This attitude is not only troubling, it is detrimental to our society.

  9. I applaud all parents who stand up and speak for the rights and well being of their children. My son is a student with SCVCS and it has been a fantastic experience for our family. You are your child's advocate and you know what is best for him. Keep fighting for him. As the saying goes, its the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. You may be the one person that will set the precedent for many. Good Luck!!

  10. Does anyone know how the computer rental works? Is there an income cut off?

  11. Thank you for this post. I wasn't impressed with the test scores SCVCS gave out as they are in most cases lower than the SC average and after hearing what you have been through I think I'll look elsewhere for home school help. I had contacted them and spoke with a woman who was of no help and very evasive regarding my questions and then I found this blog. Thanks for posting and sharing, you saved me a lot of trouble.